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Sanchez asks pope's permission to resign.

Archbishop awaits Holy See's response

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Archbishop Robert Sanchez announced March 19 that he had asked Pope John Paul II for permission to resign as head of the Santa Fe archdiocese's 500,000 Catholics.

More than 1,000 people from throughout the state made a pilgrimage to the ancient shrine of Chimayo, north of Santa Fe, to pray for the archbishop March 20, his 59th birthday.

"He knows of my willingness to accept whatever decision may be made for the good of the church. I must now await a response from the Holy See," Sanchez said in a statement.

Sanchez has been on retreat since early March, when it was learned that CBS television's "60 Minutes" had video-tapes of several women claiming he had engaged in sexual relations with them beginning in the late 1970s, when the women were in their teens.

During the March 21 airing of the program, three women said they came forth because they were angry at Sanchez's alleged failure to act in cases said to involve sexual abuse by priests.

In announcing his resignation, Sanchez asked for prayer and said he was seeking spiritual and psychological guidance.

"It is my personal desire to thoroughly evaluate my life and ministry before God so that I may have a clearer vision of my life and ministry for the future," said the statement.

Sanchez was the first New Mexico native to head the 119-year-old Santa Fe archdiocese.

Sanchez's resignation has rocked not only the world of religion, but that of politics as well. When the state Legislature got word of Sanchez's resignation, the House and Senate acknowledged its concern and respect for Sanchez with a 30-minute recess.

U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), a Catholic, expressed concern for the women who may have been involved with Sanchez and said Sanchez was right to resign.

"It's almost imperative that we forgive the archbishop," Domenici told the Albuquerque Journal. "I do. We can't be good Catholics and Christians and not do that."

Meanwhile, a group of U.S. bishops in Rome who had a talk with Vatican officials about clergy sexual abuse said they think the Vatican now has a better understanding of the U.S. situation. "It was a very frank, very open discussion," said Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland.

For example, he said, "I think they may not have had a clear notion of the problem of reassigning priests" to other ministries after they have been accused or convicted of sexual misconduct.

Another important point, the archbishop said, was explaining that pedophilia is a disease "and not just a question of will power."

In a related matter, a Vatican official at the meeting said a simpler process requested by U.S. bishops to laicize priests found to be sexual abusers is not allowed by current church law.

Reducing priests to the lay state takes place only if the sacrament of ordination is nullified or after a judicial process, said Archbishop Geraldo Agnelo, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments.

Bishop Joseph Imesch of Joliet, Ill., said the point made by Vatican officials was that, "canonically, we cannot do such a process" and that the pope would be the only one who has the power to change the situation. He said he thought this represented the Vatican's current thinking, not necessarily a final decision in the matter.
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Title Annotation:Archbishop Robert Sanchez
Author:Martinez, Demetria
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Biography
Date:Apr 2, 1993
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